Deciding whether to separate from your spouse is no doubt a difficult decision to make. 

When considering whether to separate you may have consulted with close friends or family members, counselors, or financial advisors, to obtain some advice on what you should do next. We also recommend that you obtain legal advice from a family lawyer even if you have not formally separated. 

We will provide you with some helpful tips to consider and advise you on the legal implications of separating and how this could impact your property/finances and/or children. 

In the meantime, we have identified three key areas to consider when deciding to separate: 

1. Consider where you (and if applicable, the children) will live.

  1. Will you be separated while living under the same roof for a period of time? If so, is there an agreed timeframe of when one party will move out? 
  2. Consider how will the mortgage or rent be paid if there is a separation and you remain living in the family home. Will your lender allow for payments to convert to interest-only for a short period of time on the basis of hardship?  

If you have decided that you need to leave the family home, we have prepared a checklist

2. Consider what will happen to joint bank accounts (i.e. savings accounts, mortgage, credit cards)

  1. Can either of you access the joint funds without the consent of the other? 
  2. Consider whether imposing a ‘joint signatory’ requirement on your joint accounts is appropriate so neither party can unilaterally withdraw cash from a joint account.

3. Assess your access to important documents 

  1. Determine whether you will have access to your important financial documents such as bank statements, tax returns, superannuation documents (this is relevant in the process of negotiating a property settlement). 
  2. Consider whether you need to contact your financial institution to change your address on your accounts to limit the other party’s access to your private information. 
  3. Consider whether the other party has access to your personal accounts and determine whether a change of password is necessary for accounts and devices. This includes passwords on shared devices such as iCloud or email accounts. 
  4. If you have family heirlooms or prized possessions, we recommend that you store these items in a safe and secure location. 

Most importantly, if there are children, you will need to consider how to tell the children of the separation and explain the plan for their care and living arrangements. We have prepared an article with some helpful tips on explaining your separation to your children here.

It is very important to seek legal advice before making the decision to move out of the family home. There are various legal aspects to consider which one of our lawyers will go through with you during an initial appointment. We can also develop an action plan in the initial meeting for you moving forward.